Brian's post about El Chino sent it straight to the top of my 'to visit' list. Delicious baked goods, Mexican-themed breakfasts, good coffee? It's hard to imagine a better fit to my tastes. December proved too busy for us to stop by, but we took advantage of our summer mini-break to head down for a Thursday morning brekkie. It's a lovely little venue - lots of natural light, bright colours and an array of baked goods decorating the counter. For sunny days there's a courtyard tucked away out the back as well.
The menu is split into three sections: breakfast, all day and lunch/dinner. It's all Mexican-themed (tacos, quesadillas, empanadas etc), largely gluten-free with a good array of vegetarian options (there's one explicitly labelled vegan taco, but I reckon a few of the others could be rejigged as well). They've also got a big bakery setup leftover from the previous tenants and they bake sourdough bread and pastries every day. The menu offers picnic orders for people hanging out in the Edinburgh Gardens as well, which seems like a lovely idea.
The coffee (via Seven Seeds) is great but Cindy went for a more innovative drink order, the horchata (house brewed spiced and chilled rice milk, $4.5).
She spent half of the meal pondering over the creaminess of the rice milk, before discovering that they supplement it with a generous dollop of sweetened condensed milk. This clearly contributes to its excellence, although it eliminates it as a vegan option.
Cindy ordered off the all day menu - a nopales (quesadilla with tender cactus, grilled cheese and salsa tatemada, $5, gluten free) with a side of guacamole ($4).
The cactus was pickled, with a vinegar-y flavour slightly overwhelming its natural taste. The salsa was mildly spicy and smokily charred (most likely made of charred tomatoes, jalapenos, coriander and garlic).
I ordered the huevos divorciados - sunny side up eggs with tortillas, beans, feta, salsa verde and salsa roja ($12.50, gluten-free).
I was very happy with this - the tangy and spicy salsas (plus a generous splash of hot sauce) really bursting through the milder beans and well-cooked eggs. There's a pile of tortillas hidden under the eggs somewhere in the picture above, ensuring that this is a pretty filling breakfast for $12.50.
We both had just enough room left to sample one of the pastries that had been tempting us all meal, splitting a blueberry danish ($4).
All the pastries are made with sourdough, giving them a denser texture than usual. The custard and berries were great, but the highlight was the crunchy edges of the pastry - this is a potential challenger for local pastry kings Dench.
We were both deeply impressed with El Chino - the staff were lovely, the food fantastic and the whole experience really top notch. There are so many great places to go for breakfast in this town - this is definitely one worth your attention.
Fitzroyalty's post put us onto El Chino, but nobody else seems to have blogged it yet.
214 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
veg dishes $4.50 - $12.50
Accessibility: There's a small step as you enter and a clear corridor to the counter (that another customer did manage to maneuver a two-seater pram through as we ate), but the tables are quite crowded inside. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't explore the courtyard or visit the toilets.